sinking fast

Corona Virus Is Killing Newspapers

Posted April 09, 2020
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The Corona Virus attacks the most vulnerable, those with underlying health issues.

Along with people, the Corona Virus is also killing newspapers.

And like the elderly, the obese and those with underlying conditions, newspaeprs may not survive.

One of the great fallures of governments around the world is that they did not prepare properly for something that they all knew, at some level, was coming. They pushed it off, they denied its reality. Now they are paying the price.

Newspapers, as it turns out, are no different.

They also knew that they were on life support, even before this happened.  But they did not take any actions necessary to assure that they could survive hard times, as if hard times would never arrive. 

Well, now hard times have arrived and they are going to die.

The dead are already being carried out the door. The terminaly ill are not far behind.

In Louisiana, one of the states suffering the most from the coronavirus, the Times-Picayune and the Advocate furloughed 10% of its 400 staff, and switched the rest to four-day work weeks. The Plain Dealer, a daily newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, laid off 22 newsroom staff – including its health reporter.

Penny Abernathy, the Knight chair in journalism and digital media economics at the University of North Carolina called it an extinction level event. 

There is an inherent irony in all of this.

The Virus has created a demand for news, but the same virus has also destroyed what used to pay for newspapers - advertising.

My own NY Times arrived this morning and it was pretty much ad free.  Each section was the width of, well, a piece of paper. 

The New York Times will survive, but it is unlikely that many other papers will.

Could This Have Been Avoided?

Here, unquestionably, the answer is yes.




Newspapers have known for more than a decade that their business was in decline. They knew that their demograhics were pointing them towards the cemetery, just behind most of their readers.

They knew that Google and Facebook were swalllowing up an astonising 85% of all online ad revenue, which they prayed would be their salvation - it wasn't ever going to happen/


Newspapers are magnets for creative people.  Newspapers are also great manufacturers of content on a daily basis. 

Content that has value.

And I am not talking about news.

Even if they are called Newspapers.

The real value in newspapers is in the back of the book - food, travel, fashion, styles, real estate, home renovation, weddings and more.

Take a look at cable channels.

What are the channels?






Sound familiar?

And those cable channels pay as much as $350,000 per half hour for their shows, And they buy a LOT of shows.

And how hard would it be for a newspaper to produce shows for those cable channels?

As someone who has produced more than 8,000 hours for cable over the years, I can tell you categorically, it is not hard at all.

The problem is that newspaeprs just didn't see themselves as media companies.

They saw themselves as news companies.

Well, here's the news.

You're dead.

And it's your own fault. 


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